04-08 What’s the link between ADHD and depression?

Posted in ADHD, Behavioral Health, Depression, Treatment

What’s the link between ADHD and depression?

A study done by Benjamin Lahey at the University of Chicago found that 18 percent of children who were diagnosed with ADHD early in life also suffered from depression. They were reported to be 10 times more likely to develop depression than those children without ADHD. Both conditions do share some comparable symptoms, are often co-occurring and can put people through a lot of trouble and heartache if not treated properly.

ADHD is a developmental disorder characterized by an inability to pay attention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. It affects the person’s behavior, emotions and learning ability. It is an umbrella term for three categories of behavior:

  1. Predominantly Inattentive: the individual has problems paying attention and gets distracted easily
  2. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive: the individual is restless, moves around constantly and has difficulty sitting still
  3. Combination: the individual experiences symptoms of both types

People who are predominantly inattentive or are of the combined type proved more likely to suffer from depression than those who were hyperactive-impulsive.

Overlapping symptoms

Both depression and ADHD involve irregular behavioral patterns including mood changes, an inability to concentrate on tasks and sometimes sleep issues. While some of the conditions somewhat mirror each other, when conditions are co-occurring, symptoms can take on completely new forms. Patients with co-occurring ADHD and depressive disorders are often anxious, have difficulties behaving in social situations and are more likely to abuse substances.

It is important when receiving depression treatment to understand how to distinguish between the two conditions correctly. Since both conditions are mental disorders, they are diagnosed by the same guidelines. In order to better differentiate between conditions, the depression symptoms should last longer than two weeks for a doctor to diagnose someone with clinical depression. The ADHD symptoms must arise before the patient is seven years old and must last a minimum of six months.

The direct link between depression and ADHD is still not completely understood, but it would be safe to say that many patients with ADHD may be more prone to depression due to their ADHD symptoms. They are also more likely to suffer certain life-changing events than others such as difficulty with employment and divorce.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression and in need of depression treatment, please call the California Depression Helpline at 855-678-0400 to speak to a member of our team.


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